Changes coming to GRT

(Graphic by Steph Truong)

(Graphic by Steph Truong)

The Region of Waterloo has recently released its 2013 budget, which includes several changes to the Grand River Transit (GRT) system.

The transit service, which only last May increased the cash fare from $2.50 to $3.00, will be experiencing an additional seven per cent fare increase this year, effective July 2013.

Ken Seiling, chair for the Region of Waterloo, noted that it is not yet known where the fare increase will be administered; it could be applied to either the cash fare or to student bus passes. In a statement that directly recognized student use of transit, Seiling said, “Relative to the students, the U-pass is negotiated directly with the region anyway, so there will be an increase in the U-pass rate, but it’s already been negotiated.”

A further alteration to the transit system includes an extension to the duration of the summer service hours. Seiling explained that due to a significant decline in ridership throughout this time of the year, the summer hours have been extended to include not only July and August, but also June.

“We’ll try them this year and see what the results are, we think they are workable and will not create very much inconvenience,” he said.

Additional changes will be made to the iXpress routes, including a new route along Erb Street West and University Avenue that will connect east and west Waterloo.

Extensions will be made to the existing 201 iXpress that travels along Fischer-Hallman Road to Conestoga Mall and the employment area at University Avenue and Northfield Drive.

Seiling pointed out that the region of Waterloo has allocated roughly a $2 million expansion to the budget to accommodate for the iXpress routes.

Blair Allen, supervisor of transit development for the Region of Waterloo, explained that there will also be changes to the text messaging service which is popular among student riders. Allen explained that the region currently covers this service.

However, GRT is converting to a “new premium SMS system,” meaning that the individual using the service could potentially be charged a fee by their service provider. At this point, Allen could not say how much of a fee would be charged or when it would be made effective.

Meghan Bregar, a student at the University of Waterloo, expressed frustration with the proposed adjustments to the GRT’s texting service.

“The loss of the free texting service will likely hit students harder than other Waterloo residents as we have such irregular schedules and use it several times throughout the day,” Bregar voiced.

Seiling emphasized that students are more than welcome to forward their opinions concerning public transit to the city representatives.

According to Seiling, leading up to the tabling of the budget “there were three public meetings, two in December, and one in January. In fact students did appear, and anyone can also come to the committee meetings in the run up to the budget.”

The impact of these service adjustments on the student population and rest of the region of Waterloo will remain to be seen.

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